A detailed assessment of the techno-economic potential of enhanced rock weathering on croplands identifies national CO2 removal potentials, costs and engineering challenges if it were to be scaled up to help meet ambitious global CO2 removal targets.
Potential for large-scale CO2 removal via enhanced rock weathering with croplands
Enhanced silicate rock weathering (ERW), deployable with croplands, has potential use for atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) removal (CDR), which is now necessary to mitigate anthropogenic climate change1. ERW also has possible co-benefits for improved food and soil security, and reduced ocean acidification2,3,4. Here we use an integrated performance modelling approach to make an initial techno-economic assessment for 2050, quantifying how CDR potential and costs vary among nations in relation to business-as-usual energy policies and policies consistent with limiting future warming to 2 degrees Celsius5. China, India, the USA and Brazil have great potential to help achieve average global CDR goals of 0.5 to 2 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year with extraction costs of approximately US$80–180 per tonne of CO2. These goals and costs are robust, regardless of future energy policies. Deployment within existing croplands offers opportunities to align agriculture and climate policy. However, success will depend upon overcoming political and social inertia to develop regulatory and incentive frameworks. We discuss the challenges and opportunities of ERW deployment, including the potential for excess industrial silicate materials (basalt mine overburden, concrete, and iron and steel slag) to obviate the need for new mining, as well as uncertainties in soil weathering rates and land–ocean transfer of weathered products.